by Missouri State Athletics
Matthew Bentley’s golden overtime goal capped a thrilling late-game rally for Missouri State (14-0, 8-0 MVC) as the Bears scored three unanswered goals to keep the team’s unbeaten streak alive in a 3-2 overtime win over Valparaiso (3-11-1, 2-6 MVC) on Wednesday afternoon.
With their program-best 14th-straight win, the Bears clinched sole possession of the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship, earning the eighth overall regular season title in program history.
“The team has been incredibly focused all season long,” said associate head coach Michael Seabolt. “We will celebrate and enjoy it (the championship) on the bus ride tonight, but then we are back to work tomorrow and looking at the Loyola match.”
In rainy conditions at Brown Field, both teams traded scoring chances throughout the first half as they combined for five corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes of play. MSU’s aggressive attack was rewarded in the 30th minute, drawing the Bears’ sixth penalty kick this season. Bentley, who was a perfect 3-for-3 in PK’s going into the match, saw his opportunity ricochet off the post to keep the match scoreless.
In the waning minutes of the first half, Valpo’s Mason Marcey sent a free kick in to find Dylan Waugaman to put the Crusaders on the board first. With the 1-0 score, the Bears found themselves trailing at halftime for just the third time in 2019.
Following the halftime intermission, Valpo put the Bears in unfamiliar territory, scoring in the 49th minute to give MSU its largest deficit this season with a 2-0 advantage.
The Bears finally broke through in the 71st minute as freshman Kian Yari sent a slicing cross that found Bentley for the header to cut the Crusaders’ lead in half.
With the clock winding down in regulation and the MSU attack increasing its pressure, Stu Wilkin found himself in the right place at the right time in the 85th minute. The senior midfielder collected a deflected ball from the Valpo defense and fired a shot from the edge of the box to notch the equalizer, sending the Bears to their fourth overtime match this season.
After 98 minutes of play, Bentley received a pass from Jack Denton inside the Crusaders’ box and pivoted around a defender to notch his fourth game-winner of the season and complete the Bears’ improbable come-from-behind win.
It was a tale of two halves for the MSU attack as the Bears recorded 18 consecutive shots in the second half and overtime to outshoot the Crusaders 22-9 in the match.
With his third brace of the season, Bentley continued his recent scoring frenzy as the senior forward has found the back of the net in six-straight matches, tallying seven goals throughout his hot streak.
Coach Jon Leamy‘s squad looks to cap a perfect home record Sunday (Nov. 3) as Missouri State hosts Loyola in the home finale at 1:00 p.m. from Betty and Bobby Allison South Stadium.